Sunday, June 23, 2019


This poison oak reaction of mine has accelerated to the point that I'm being forced into a seated position for an extended period of time.  This means I have time for blogging!  Oh, but I'm also all hopped up on Benadryl, so prepare yourself for a format that looks more like a maze than a story arc.

We're coming up on two whole weeks lived in Connecticut, which also means our family has been reunited for just over two weeks.  One of the things that we tried to keep a bit under the radar was the fact that Derek arrived here in CT in early April, while the kids and I remained behind in Iowa.  I'm trying to find the right word that would illustrate what it was like to be apart for so long; "excruciating" feels like overkill, but "hard" is too milquetoast.  Whatever word lives halfway between those two extremes is the right one, so your homework for today is to fill in the blank:  "It was                          for the Crislers to be separated by 1,000 miles for two months."  

Part of what made that time apart so difficult was the enormous amount of stress we were under.  There were huge amounts of things to be done, and while I tackled my share of those tasks in Iowa and he his in CT, after 15 years of marriage we're not really divide and conquer-type people anymore, but Unite and Conquer.  That is hard to do when there are 1200 miles between you.  The kids suffered, Derek suffered, I suffered.  Military families:  how do you do it?  We went two months and it felt like it was close to killing us off; I cannot fathom months on end.

June 6th became a much-anticipated date, as Derek flew into Des Moines that evening.  It was such a relief for us all to be back together, even though it was our last night in Iowa.  Our belongings had been packed and loaded by a moving company on the 5th and 6th, so the five of us spent a final night sleeping on the floor of our beloved Iowa house.  Emotionally speaking, each of our kids have gone through rough patches when it comes to this move, and that night it was Caedmon's turn.  He was bereft at the idea of leaving the only house he has ever known.

Thankfully none of our kids have been emotionally drowning at the same time; when one's face starts to slip beneath the surface, the other two are treading water.  So you go and you haul that kid up, assessing and reassuring and loving and praying over them.  That kid stabilizes, so you turn around and another kid starts to go under.  This is parenting, and it is exhausting, but it's also much easier to keep them all afloat when there are two of you life guarding.  

Amongst all that were the good-byes we had to say to so many friends.  At some point I will write about how taken care of I felt as we prepared to leave, but that's just not something I feel up to right now.  Blame the poison oak, not my penchant to avoid any and all negative feelings.  That's right... poison oak.  No feeling of any feelings allowed.  Quick, look at this weird but captivating gif instead!

We signed the last of our paperwork for the sale of our house Thursday night, got up bright and early Friday morning and chatted with the new owners who, you might remember, were also our neighbors.  We walked through the house, pointing a few things out to them we thought might be helpful.  We had a few stops to make around town, returning camping pads to friends (so we didn't have to sleep on the bare floors), honoring Adelaide's request for that last trip to Casey's, etc. 

And then we were on our way!  We had three days worth of road tripping ahead of us since we'd elected to turn the voyage east into a mini-vacation.  I'll expound upon that soon, but for now I'll just say:  I was so thankful for those three days.  They were a real gift, an in-between time where reality was suspended.  I wasn't killing myself trying to get everything done to wrap things up in Iowa, but we hadn't yet closed on our house in Connecticut.  All we had to do was drive, visit lighthouses, watch Mork and Mindy, and be together.  Well, plus a few other things.  But still together.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

All I Need Is a Bridge To Live Under

It's been quite a week.  We took the kids on their virgin trip to IKEA, which Adelaide loved and the boys tolerated.  Derek and I basically looked at ten different ways to put shelves in ten different places; this new house has very little in the way of storage space, so as we continue to try and unpack it consists of us unwrapping an item, looking around for a place to store it, finding nothing, and putting it on whatever horizontal surface is within arm's reach.  Repeat x1000.

We got a new couch, which is exciting, because the one that has faithfully served us for the last 11 years only fits three people, and last I counted there are five of us.  It's nice and plump, although I haven't really allowed myself to recline on it yet; I currently look like a cross between a burn victim and a leper due to the increasingly widespread poison oak rash covering my body, and I don't want to get blister ooze on the new cushions.  Each day also brings with it a heightened sense of self consciousness in terms of bringing this open flesh wound out into public, although the real problem there is that I don't like for any fabric to be touching the rash, which hurts on contact but really starts barking when I later try to peel the fabric off that has inevitably fused to my weeping skin.  Clearly the answer is to go around topless, but something tells me this would attract the wrong kind of friends.

I started taking Benadryl a couple days ago to try and combat the incessant itching and pain, but did so with reluctance:  I'm pretty sensitive to the stuff.  I know this due to past experience, which consisted of me taking some Benadryl at Derek's parents' house years ago and then waking up an hour later, face-down in the middle of the living room.  I don't know why I didn't choose one of the beds, couches, or really any kind of furniture and instead chose to stretch out where there was a regular pattern of foot traffic.

But itchy and oozy am I, so Benadryl it is.  I've been keeping the operation of heavy machinery to a minimum, but yesterday I felt like it was safe to walk a block up the hill to the small and sweet Berlin Free Library (not to be confused with the town's public library).  I remember sitting down in a chair to read while the kids made their book selections, and then I remember waking up to my phone buzzing in my lap.  I'm pretty sure I only fell asleep for a few minutes.  I really really hope no one stumbled upon me in my (legal) drug-induced coma.

I am going to the doctor Monday morning.  I am hoping for more powerful, but still legal drugs.  That or they can just skin me and I'll start anew.  Whatever it takes.

Monday, June 17, 2019

We Have Arrived

We're here!  We made it!

One week ago yesterday we arrived in CT, and one week ago today we closed on our house in the morning and spent the rest of the day moving into it.

There's so much to say, so much to document, that I don't even really know where to start.  I'm in another library, except it's 1200 miles from the one I was writing in last week.  It's a nice library, but I find I'm struggling to accept it as it is and not zero in on all the things I'd change if I could get my hands on it.  (What would I change, you ask?  More new middle readers.  Less staff just milling around, looking bored.  Library stuff.)  I feel gross as I sit here, not because I'm actually dirty- we have a functioning shower now, hurray!- but because my skin is covered in light pink patches of dried calamine lotion.  It turns out we have quite the crop of poison oak in our new yard, and although I have spent a large portion of the last week helping to clear it out, I don't really remember rolling around in it like a pig in mud.  Or a dog in mud.

Given that I did not make any crowns of poison oak to rest charmingly upon my brow, I'm wondering just how I ended up with a rash behind my ears, of all places.  And my back.  And my shoulders.  The rash on my hands and forearms, I understand.

Oh, wait, I know!  See, if you're allergic to urushiol oil, as I am, then you know that after exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, etc, you have to wash aaaallll the fabrics you even thought about touching.  Clothing, sheets, towels, etc, or you'll keep re-exposing yourself.  But our washer is still broken.  Something in my possession has that oil on it, so it just keeps spreading.  Awesome.

The possibly-good news is that the repairman is scheduled to pay us a visit tomorrow; the washer needed a new pump.  But we really really need that pump to arrive today, or he'd just be coming over to have tea and cookies.  Except that I'm not a big tea drinker, so I guess we'd just be having cookies.  Cookies and calamine lotion.  Sounds like the name of a scented candle.

Many other things have happened, too, both good and bad.  Derek and his dad hooked up the dryer, which included cutting through the side of the house to vent it, as we chose a new location for the washer and dryer.  Well, I'll put "new" in quotation marks, because it was likely the original location, before the Flippers From Hell got their hands on this house and did nearly everything wrong, including moving the washer and dryer to the second floor and kitting out a laundry room around it the size of a bedroom.  We wanted that fourth bedroom, so back down the washer and dryer needed to go.  I'll finish this riveting paragraph by saying that they had to cut 8.5" through that exterior wall for the dryer vent, and 7.5 of those inches were solid wood.  So... maybe the house is well-insulated?

When we haven't been working on the house (which is almost never), we've been exploring this new-to-us area.  There are plenty of things here to recommend our location, but one of my favorites is the abundance of trails- at least compared to where we were- in this section of New England.  I picked one of the closest ones and packed the kids up two days ago while Derek was at work in the evening.  Now, hiking isn't one of their favorite things, but I can usually get them to go along at least half-cheerfully for a solid mile or two, so when we studied the map at the trail head I chose the blue trail.  1.5 miles is very doable for our kids!  No problem!  Piece of cake!

Except, whoopsy daisy, we instead set out on the blue/red trail, and while my suspicions were mounting about my mistake almost from the beginning, I didn't say anything until we were over 1 1/2 miles in.  Then I looked it up on my AllTrails app, and sure enough, we were on the 5.5 mile loop.  To their credit, the kids took the news with relative aplomb (or maybe it was just exhaustion?), and we turned around to hike back.  It was very hilly, especially for newly-arrived flatlanders, and extremely rocky.  

Of course, we knew that was coming, given that one of the trail runners we saw at the trail head held up a shredded shoe and told her companion, "This is what Ragged Mountain does to shoes."  But it was beautiful, and I was so pleased with how the kids handled the challenge.  

Tomorrow (or whenever I get to it):  Reunions!  Flowers!  A weeping house!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

And Tomorrow They Load the Truck

I am sitting at my local library, writing what I assume will be my last post from Iowa.  There are strangers in our house, packing up our things, which makes me simultaneously say, "Waaaaaah!" and "Oh, thank God."  I mean, I'm sad that we're moving, but I'm also thankful it's not me in there packing it all up.  I about killed myself trying to get it all ready last night, loading up cleaning supplies, making sure everything was unplugged, etc.  Do you know how many aerosol cans we have?  Multitudes.  So so many.  Why do we need four giant cans of wasp killer?  Have we been living in a bad '60s horror film and I never realized it?  Here I was thinking I was living a normal life of an Iowan when apparently I was a bumbling extra, oblivious to the fact that there's a giant wasp on the loose in the town of Brave New World.

My head's in kind of a weird space today.  You understand.

Speaking of Brave New World, the moniker I long ago gave the little town we've been living in, I think it's now safe to tell you that its actual name is Huxley.  Just me having my own, private, long-running, literary joke there. 

Other items I evidently hoard?  Soy sauce.  Field guides.  Aldi-brand Rotel.  Because I guess you never know when you're going to need to identify a species of North American tree while eating Mexican and Asian food both?  I'm really not ashamed of what these choices say about my priorities. 

I've also been spending my time trying to see as many Iowa loved ones as possible in between working and grabbing our children by their cheeks, peering into their faces while asking, "You okay in there?  Any irreversible trauma going on?"  They love this about as much as you think they would.  Also I'm running around like a crazy person because moving involves paperwork.  Lots and lots of paperwork.  Post office.  Doctor's office.  Schools.  Etc.

Then, two days ago, as I manically attempted to wash every scrap of fabric in our house (everything I do now is manic, except when I slip into deep lethargy and depression- is there such as thing as situational bipolar disorder?) so it would be clean for the move, where it can get dirty again in the moving truck, our washer abruptly went on strike.  It stopped about a quarter of the way into a cycle, so I manually drained it, ran a spin cycle, did all the things the manual told me to do when the washer's cry for help is "5E," the error code that appeared on the display.  I thought I had it fixed, evidenced by my triumphant text to Derek.  Then the same thing happened, so I drained it again- which, if you're curious, consists of me gracefully sprawling on our laundry room floor surrounded by all the shallow vessels I could find; the drain tube is only a couple inches off the floor, and each time I drained around three gallons of water- and ran the spin cycle again, and then pronounced it... maybe not dead, but grievously injured.

We knew it would be nigh on impossible to get a technician out to fix the washer within the 36 hours we had until the movers arrived, but I still tried.  No luck.  But then Tami made herself my new best friend by announcing that YES, they could get a technician out to Connecticut to look at it after the move!  God bless nation-wide warranty companies!  God bless warranties themselves!  God bless Tami, the kind lady on Assurant's online chat for whom I left a stellar review in the post-conversation survey!

Gratitudinals- that's right, I remembered that in everything I'm supposed to give thanks and all that junk.  Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1.  Marco Polo, the video chat app my friend Mindy introduced me to several weeks ago.  It allows you to record a video that can only be seen by whomever you decide to put into a group- I have a group that consists of Mindy, Anne, and me, one with just Derek and me, and so on.  It's eased the thought of moving far away from my people, because now I'll be able to go back and watch their videos whenever I want, still seeing their faces and hearing their voices.  It's a nice alternative to Facetime because you can record your videos and watch your friends' responses at your leisure.

2.  The fact that I have several thank yous to write once this post is done, because it's evidence of people helping us and doing any number of things to ease our transition and show their affection for us.
A good start.

3.  Derek's mom Becky, who is even now at the movie theater with our kids.  It's helped make a difficult day easier.

4.  Our kids' teachers, who made time in the death march that is the month of May to lavish extra affection onto our children.  Atticus's teacher made up a story to get him out of the classroom so that his classmates could each write what they like about him or what they'll remember about him on pieces of paper.  One of Adelaide's teachers sent her a thoughtful email after the last day of school encouraging her and giving Daughter her personal address so they can be pen pals.  Caedmon's teacher pulled him aside and gave him an extra hug ("she squeezed me so tight, Mom") and words that express all the goodness she sees in him. 
And now I'm crying in the library.

5.  Chili lime cashews from Aldi, especially on top of a salad.  So crunchy and spicy and flavorful.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  Leakage in my eyes and my mouth.  What a day.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Road Trip of Sadness!

When talking about how to get our family out to Connecticut in (eep!) 1 1/2 weeks, multiple options were discussed. We could ship the van and fly out.  We could drive the van and not fly.  We could do other things that I cannot now recall because all these conversations happened weeks ago and it's all I can do to remember what I said yesterday. 

In the end, we decided to drive the van out, all five of us, 1200 miles. 

At first we thought we'd try to drive 9 hours a day for two consecutive days because it's actually only 18 hours from here to there, not 24 or however long it was from where I lived in Kansas when I had to drive out years ago.  Benefits to this included the fact that Derek would have to take fewer days off work, we'd be able to dive into the work waiting for us at the house in CT more quickly, and, well, only two days on the road.

However, I told Derek that although I knew this was going to be a tough journey and that most if not all of it would be tinged with melancholy, I did not want this to be our family's Trail of Tears, just a van full of sadness hurtling down I-80 over two days.  I wanted to somehow redeem this journey, find a way to make positive memories over those miles. 

We decided to add a day to the trip, building in some stops and taking our daily travel time to just six hours.  We'll be passing through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.  Whew!  We will not be stopping in each state- sorry, New York- and the stops we do have planned depend at least a bit on nice weather. 

Here's the plan:

Day One
The closing on our house in Iowa is on Day One, hopefully first thing in the morning so we can get on the road immediately following and at a decent time.  Adelaide has requested to stop at Casey's one last time before we leave the state.  Casey's is not a hometown store or local watering hole; it's a gas station chain, which makes all of this sound way less poignant.  Casey's headquarters are a scant 15 miles down the highway, however, and their locations are so abundant around here that we have two in our town of 3,500 people.  They also make surprisingly good pizza, and we nearly always stop for road trip snacks before heading off on any journey longer than a few hours.  This trip will apparently be no different.

Our first stop beyond the boundaries of beautiful Iowa is in Illinois, at Lagomarcino's Confectionary.  We'll be eating at their old fashioned soda fountain, although how I'm supposed to choose between a malt and homemade chocolates, I don't know.  Question:  what's an egg creme and do you think I should try one of theirs? 

Night One
Stay at a hotel in Indiana.  It was vitally important to Atticus that each hotel had a pool.  It was vitally important to Derek that each hotel included breakfast.  Indiana is supposed to deliver on both.  I'm hoping it's not too much to ask to also find no bed bugs.  Strike that:  no insects of any kind, please.  I'm picky that way. 

Day Two
Our plan is to stop at Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio, where hopefully we'll be able to frolic and scamper to our hearts' content at the state park by the lighthouse, and maybe tour the lighthouse itself.  This will be our family's first exposure to one of The Great Lakes!  At least... I think it will be?  Definitely our first time at Lake Erie, anyway. 

If it's raining Marblehead wouldn't be an ideal stop, so our backup plan is Seneca Caverns, self-described as "the caviest cave in America," which is probably what landed it on a website I love, Roadside America, which highlights the kookiest roadside attractions by state.  Derek and I toured Fantastic Caverns in Missouri in college, and I remember it as being, well, fantastic, but also pricey.  Seneca Caverns looks similarly expensive, so it's definitely our second choice, but it would allow us to stretch our legs and move our bodies around a hopefully pretty cool place (ha, "cool" because it looks neat but also because it's a constant 54 degrees in there please don't leave I can't help the way I am).

Night Two
Stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania.  Pool.  Breakfast.  No bed bugs.

Day Three
Our PA plan is to look at rocks!  This has been a hard sell to the kids as I've presented it to them in just such a fashion:  "Pennsylvania = rocks!  Yessss!"  The Frontier Rock Formations really do look beautiful, though, and since one of my personal priorities for these stops is being able to move and walk around after hours in the car, this could be a good one, but again, we need decent weather.  We do not currently have a foul weather plan for PA, and so far all the attractions I've found on Roadside America, although neat sounding ("Green Mannequin Aliens and UFO," "Skeleton of Old Coaly the Mule"), all appear to be outdoors.  So... pray for clear skies, I guess?  Also on the docket for PA:  wave to Carolyn!  Oh, wait, and I think in Illinois I wave to Ernie!

Night Three
Hotel in CT not far from our new house.  Closing is first thing the next morning, after which the moving company will hopefully be there and ready to unload all our junk/treasured possessions into the house.  Goals for the hotel are same as in previous nights/states:  pool, breakfast, no bed bugs.

What else?  We've been on enough long trips with our kids to know that something will go wrong.  Flat tires, locking my keys in the car (while in Kansas City, pregnant with Caedmon, two small children in tow- that was an interesting day), sick kids, sick adults, screaming kids, sleepy drivers, road construction, scary weather, etc, etc, etc.  Something will go wrong on this trip.  It is inevitable.  I will attempt to be like bamboo, bending but not breaking.  This is difficult when you are from Kansas where the state tree is the Cottonwood; flexibility is not one of its characteristics.

I'm also bracing myself for the sadness.  We are trying to make memories on this trip, but one of those might be crying into our old-fashioned sodas in Illinois.  We may just end up infecting the eastern half of the United States with our feelings along this journey.  Sorry, U.S.A.
On a more lighthearted note, Derek is going to be vlogging throughout our trip!  He's hemmed and hawed and talked about vlogging and considered and reconsidered- after all, he knows video, he knows editing, he knows all the things and jargon that I don't even have the language for, and I like the idea of having these memories to keep in a more lasting format.  I did warn him that while I am looking forward to this trip because of the stops we have planned, I do think there will be a considerable amount of tears and crankiness due to its inherent purpose:  our exodus from our beloved Iowa.  He is aware of this.  He also said "That's what editing is for."  I'll be curious to see how he chooses to tell this story.  All of that content will be on his public YouTube channel; I'll put a link to that channel in a future post rather than buried here at the end of this one. 

Congratulations.  You made it to the end of the longest post ever.  Go have some chocolate milk to celebrate- that's my celebration drink of choice because it's delicious, and... I'm a child?   

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Less Than Two Weeks Now

Hey-ho, I have some positive news, good news, even, about this house we're trying to buy.  What a delightful change of pace, right?

Where we last left off (possibly where we last left off, anyway; I can't be bothered to go back and look right now, showing me new lows within the depths that encompass my laziness), the inspector had come and gone, emailed us a 73 page document that we were instructed to read in full (and which, by golly, I did) after which we knew that the cast iron plumbing was rotting and the chimney needed help in a multitude of ways and the knob and tube wiring in the attic was live... which is maybe illegal?  I don't remember. 

As you may recall, we are attempting to buy this house from a cold, soulless bank who does not care if a property of theirs burns down around us as slowly asphyxiate in our beds.  Because of this we assumed that we would be stuck fixing absolutely everything, large and small, that needs fixing in this house.  But lo and behold, miracles do occur, and they fixed the wiring and put a new liner in the chimney (or something chimney related- I'm finding through this process that I know zilch about chimneys).  They did this for reasons that I believe I will be able to divulge after our closing date but not before.  How will you ever sleep at night between now and June 10?

This gif could also be used to illustrate around 40% of my mental state when contemplating this move.  Things are very jittery up in here.

We're down to T-13 days until we leave Iowa.  We're sad, but also ready to stop feeling like we're half in one place, half in another, not really belonging in either.  Caedmon and Adelaide have both had to tour schools they will never attend (upper elementary for C, high school for A because the 8th graders will be there next year as the district does construction on the middle school).  All their friends are talking about the various fun summer plans they're making together which is normal, and natural, but not so enjoyable to listen to when you will be around for none of them.  I'm working on registering the kids for school in a different state, which is time-consuming but necessary.  Thankfully much of this is now online, so I can at least get the first few steps done remotely. 

People keep asking me how the packing is going, but I haven't been packing.  Like, at all.  The movers are packing our things on June 5th and loading them onto a truck on the 6th, so I don't think I need to pack anything else at this point- we packed a ton of crap away just getting the house ready to sell- but I'm getting increasingly jittery (see above gif), thinking that there must be something I'm forgetting I need to do.  At random times of day I'll suddenly dive for pen and paper or for my phone to use the Notes app, remembering that I need to get the oil changed on the van before we drive out to CT, and I need to put the giant saw in the shed on the swap page, I need to call and put an end date on our garbage service and water and who knows what all else. 

Oh, I know- I'll just ignore all of it and continue this (so far fantastic) book!  Maybe everything else will go away on its own?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Inspectors Inspecting, Banks Bullying

Yesterday morning, Derek accompanied the inspector on his tour of our potential house in CT.  Then he called me, said he had good news and bad news, and told me a bunch of bad stuff.

To be fair, I was at work and he was in the middle of a bunch of errands so we didn't have time for a lengthy chat.  I was still left reeling from news of a chimney that needs help and rotting cast iron pipes and live knob and tube wiring in the attic that we eventually want to reclaim and use as a third floor.  That's not to mention the carpenter ants that were thankfully remediated a year ago.

I think it's funny that in the world of pest control they use terms like "remediated" for carpenter ants and "excluded" for bats.  Even someone who loves finding the perfect word for each situation wouldn't mind more plain language here:  how about "we killed the snot out of those ants" and "the bats now know they are not welcome in this place." 

When we spoke again later in the day, Derek shared the positive parts of the inspection, because it turns out there are positive parts!  The floors are in great shape, it's a great lot, and something else good that I can't think of because I keep dwelling on all the work we might have in front of us.  

The good part about taking care of all these problems ourselves is that we'll get to live with nice, new pieces of the house as soon as we move in.  If you've ever sold a house before then you know what I'm talking about:  when you put your house on the market you're forced to finish all those little projects you've been putting off or have been allowing to hang there, unfinished and dangling in your peripheral vision.  This means you look around at all your finally-completed rooms and say, "Man, this place is nice!" and then you move.  So if we replace the five windows whose seals are broken, replace the pipes, tear out the shrubbery that's way too close to the foundation, etc, etc, then we'll get to enjoy knowing those things are new and sturdy and we're building something that will last.  

There will still be surprises, of course.  In this house it was bats, burst pipes, clogged pipes, a cranky old air conditioner, a cranky old hot water heater, downed trees, and many, many other things.  But we improved it and we made it ours, and now we get to do the same to a comparatively newer house in Connecticut.  Our Iowa house was built in 1900, while the one we're working on buying is from 1920.  I don't feel safe stating outright that we're definitely buying it, because it's currently owned by a bank because it was a flip/foreclosure.  Let me tell you:  buying a house from a bank vs human beings is very different, and by "different" I mean "completely horrible," and by "completely horrible" I mean "googles Elizabethan torture methods for the heads of impersonal national banks but deems branding and pressing too compassionate."  

So there's that.

On the Iowa house front, it's officially Sold and not just Pending.  I know this because I walked outside the other morning and the topper on the realtor's sign in front of our house had been switched from "Pending" to "Sold."  I do well with this kind of obvious messaging, and frequently ask God to make His directions as unequivocal as this one.  I mean, I don't ask for a realtor's sign staked in front of our place of residence, but I do frequently say, "Please don't be subtle about this, God; you know I don't do well with that."  He never seems to listen, though.  OR... maybe I'm the bad listener?  

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Big Brutus

Sunday afternoon of our Kansas weekend was spent in the town of West Mineral, a place I can almost promise you have never been, being home to all of 185 people. 

Unless, of course, you have been to visit Big Brutus. 

Big Brutus is the (truly fantastic) name of the largest electric shovel still in existence.  It's no longer used for its original purpose, but there's a strip pit just beyond it so that when you sit in its... cabin?  Cockpit?  Whatever the name of the place where the driver sits, the strip pit is dead ahead of the windshield, so you can pretend you're about to strip mine the guts out of southeast Kansas, which is exactly what Big Brutus did in the 1960's and 70's.  After it was decommissioned it apparently just sat there, a big rusty hunk of metal in the middle of nowhere, just begging kids like my dad to come and see whether or not today was the day to contract tetanus. 

He didn't, thankfully, and by the time he and my mom took my sisters and I to visit it had been cleaned up and made relatively safe.  As a child, the only things I really remember about it was its massive size (hard to miss) and that our parents bought us slim plastic tubes filled with honey from the gift shop.  I also recall that we were allowed to climb up onto the boom, which I chose not to do because I was an intelligent child and risk-averse when it suited me to be. 

Nowadays those pesky insurance companies have stepped in and forbidden the public entrance to the boom. What's a boom on an electric shovel?  I'm still not sure- some kind of big metal thing that sticks even further up into the sky than the main part of the shovel. 

My dad, his wife, and their grandson met my sisters and their families plus my clan at Big Brutus.

It's hard to explain how big this thing really is in person, but to help you, here's a picture of it with our two boys circled in blue at its base.  It's sixteen stories high, not counting the boom.

One of my more interesting idiosyncrasies is that I frequently forget that heights are not my favorite.  Derek will suggest going ziplining in Branson and I'm all, "Great idea!"  The next thing I know we're on a platform attached to a tree way up high, strapped into a harness by some college kid who seems half-asleep and not at all concerned for my personal safety.  Thankfully I'm usually able to ignore that feeling of nausea in my belly that comes with being too far off the ground and do whatever is necessary:  step off the platform into nothing, walk out onto a rope at a ropes course, or in this case, climbing the open-air metal stairs that encircle Big Brutus and take you up, up, five stories up.  That did not save my brother-in-law Clinton from having to hear me chatter nervously behind him.  About what, I honestly don't remember, I just needed to make sounds until I was back inside the machine and couldn't see how far up we were.  

That body of water out the window up there is the strip pit, one of many that you'll find all over southeast Kansas.  My mom used to scare us with stories of machinery left in those from coal mining days, how you should never swim in them because they're so dangerous.  Also... something about the mob from Kansas City dumping bodies in them because they're a straight shot south from KC?  Sisters, is my brain making this up?

Both the boys wanted their picture in the drivers seat.  Adelaide abstained, for some reason.

That's Caedmon in the scoop and my dad kicking the tires, as it were. 

Requisite family photo in front of BB, which seems like a terrible nickname for Big Brutus, which is itself a nickname for the Bucyrus-Erie model 1850-B electric shovel- I'm just tired of typing Big Brutus.  We're missing two people in this photo, one because he sadly wasn't there and one because pictures aren't his favorite and I'd already shoved him in front of a camera many times that weekend.

My sisters and I haven't gotten a picture with our dad in quite some time, so we seized our chance in front of one of the many pieces of machinery on the grounds.  I knew what none of them were. 

And these are just two cute nieces.

And before you think this is all just some hick tourist attraction (which it totally is), NPR did a story on Big Brutus last year when it was turned into a museum and historic landmark.  When asked post-trip, Caedmon reported it as being "cool," Atticus liked skipping rocks on the water in the strip pit and spotting a turtle in the same, and Adelaide said that it was "a big metal thing that was slightly interesting, I guess."  She also liked hanging out with the babies, and crawling around inside BB.

 I guess that's one of the charms of kids; they usually get something out of your planned experiences, just never quite what you'd expected. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Weekend Report: Massacre Sites, 90 Years, and Trees

In the last post, I noted that sometime soon we planned on heading south for my Grandpa's big 90th birthday party.  That sometime soon was last Saturday, which I intentionally didn't mention because God only knows who's reading this and we don't want any unplanned visitors relieving us of all our belongings because I blabbed GUESS WHO'S LEAVING THEIR HOUSE UNATTENDED?

So last Saturday the kids and I drove the five hours to my grandparents' house, which felt short because our southward travels are normally seven hours, to my mom's house.  Who knew that just two fewer hours would make a drive feel so short, so manageable? 

We still stopped four times within that five hours, none of which I can blame on the children.  I was the one feeling simultaneously achy and jitter-buggy, needing frequent stops to stretch my restless limbs. We stopped at my favorite Iowa rest stop, which borders and provides access to a county park complete with a body of water and wooded trails, which I have run before on a solo trip south and which freaked Derek out because a single runner on isolated trails right next to a rest/truck stop is apparently not the safest idea? 

Our other superfluous stop was made because I'm a sucker for historical markers.  I've seen the sign for the Marais de Cygnes Massacre site many times before, but this time we finally got off the highway, followed the increasingly narrow and windy gravel road, and drove into what ended up being a secluded but picturesque national historic site.
The above is an interesting contraption that you wind up by following the instruction to "turn briskly for sixty seconds," which charged it, I guess; then we pressed play and listened to a dramatic reading of the newspaper article from the 1860's which detailed the events of the massacre, where pro-slavery Missourians crossed the border and shot a bunch of Kansas free-staters (this is all Civil War era, Bleeding Kansas stuff, if you're trying to figure out why on earth any of this ever would have happened).  This was looking over the ravine where the victims were forced to stand and then fell dead into.  I appreciated looking over all of the information available and walking around the area; the boys' favorite part seems to have been the wild turkey sighting.  If you push this stuff in their faces enough something is bound to rub off, right?  Maybe?  Hopefully?

We did eventually make it to our destination, where we got to see nieces and grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and other relatives whose connection to myself I can only guess at.  And even though we forgot our customary bribes (frozen snack-size Kit Kats), we still forced all the children into group photos, which I somehow did not end up with a picture of on my phone, but I do have this nice one of my mom, her sisters, and their parents. 

I also got this rare sighting of a group of von Soostens.  
What do think a group of von Soostens would be, anyway?  A herd?  A peck?  Whatever the German word for a pack is?  Whatever, they are all now or at some point were von Soostens, and I think at this point the birthday boy was just ready for his cake.

If at all possible, I would highly recommend having a cousin with a bakery.  It makes every family gathering better.

This weekend allowed me to make a big old checkmark on my list of things to do and people to see before we move.  That made it all bittersweet, because hurray, I got to see so many people I love!  But oh, no, when will I see them again?

Loved ones like my sisters who aren't afraid to hug not-a-hugger Adelaide.  She will tolerate this kind of behavior from very few people.  Her aunts are two of them.  (No Adelaides were harmed in the making of this photo; just made to feel momentarily uncomfortable BUT NO DOUBT LOVED, DAUGHTER.)

Sunday before we left we got in plenty of tree climbing, because although she is not a people hugger, she most certainly is a tree hugger.
There most definitely is a Daughter in that Ash.  Click to embiggen and see if you can spot her.  Hint:  look for the serial killer face lurking amongst the leaves.

She also conquered the Sycamore, which was decidedly more difficult, not having a handy fork a few feet off the ground.
Yep, she's in that picture, too.  I'm also happy to report that years of calmly reciting, "You got yourself up there, you can get yourself down," often in the face of twenty feet high hysterics, has resulted in her being able to monkey herself up and down with ease.  

The boys were more excited about the afternoon's entertainment, which I'll post about tomorrow.  It was larger and a little more ostentatious than a morning of peaceful tree climbing, but also involved fewer ticks, for which I think Adelaide has an increasing sense of appreciation.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Oh, May

In one month and four, maybe five days, we move.  Our manifest destiny, at least for now, appears not to be to go west, young man, but to go east.  And so we shall.

Until then, however, we are cramming as much into this month as we possibly can.  If you have school-aged kids then you know that May already tends to present itself as a scheduling hellscape with its incessant concerts and field trips and dress up days and special, end-of-year events that for some reason all need cookies/napkins/specific clothing.  It's around all of that that we are trying to see as many people as humanly possible before we leave:  friends, family, everyone.  We have no idea when we will see many of these people again, so the pressure to have the conversations, eat the meals together, squeeze our loved ones one more time is very real.

It sounds kind of like we're dying, doesn't it?  Like we're marching our family onto the Titanic, steerage class, no doubt, which the movie portrayed as a rambunctious but fun-loving place to be with its camaraderie and choreographed dancing but which I would have to think was actually very smelly.

When I get too mopey I sometimes indulge these feelings but am also just as likely to mentally take myself by the shoulders, give them a brisk shake, and say, "For Pete's sake, it's not like you're dying!"  The unfortunate part of this is that my facial expressions tend to mirror my internal dialogue so if you've seen me grimacing during my runs or walks lately, it's not you; it's me, talking to me.  It's me times two.  Best to just walk right by like you haven't seen anything, unless you want to be roped into an impromptu therapy session.  Up to you.

The benefit to all this is that it's forced me out of my fortress of solitude and into the company of people that, oh yeah, I really enjoy!  If you've been trying to improve your hostessing skills and get out of your own comfort zone, my advice is to move across the country.  You won't have time to worry about how clean your house is or if the snacks you're serving are just right, but possible negative side effects of this include your new penchant for saying things like, "Well, if you don't like it at least you may never have to see me again, right?" followed quickly by "I'm just kidding!" in response to the stricken look on your friends' faces.

I'm bringing this sensational mental state to southeast Kansas soon, because we get to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday!  We'll also get to eat one of my favorite food combinations (coleslaw with German potato salad, must be mixed together in a 1:1 ratio), see nieces and sisters and grandparents, and visit a humongous steam shovel, because that's what passes for a tourist attraction in Kansas.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Possibly Not Homeless

Here is one of the many ways that I am fortunate:  I have a bunch of people checking in on me daily.  "How are you doing?"  "I'm thinking of you!  Still surviving this crazy process?"  "I just prayed for you! Let me know how you're coping!"

And then I gulp back tears because these days a single kind word is enough to cause me to dissolve into a puddle of stressed out gratitude.  

Honestly, though, one of the kindest things my people have done for me lately is to continue to share their own news and lives with me.  I still want to hear the good news!  It's a reminder to me that life is cyclical, and seasonal, and all the other words that indicate that hard times don't last forever.  I also want to hear about your struggles:  it jolts me out of my self-centeredness (Will our children survive this move?  Will I ever find friends as incredible as the ones here?  and on, and on.) and reminds me that nobody's life is perfect, big move on the horizon or not.

I've felt bad about how I've been answering this week's big question, though:  "How was your house hunting trip?  Did you find a house?"

The answer is that the trip, while useful, was also stressful.  So stressful.  I feel like most meals involved Derek and I poking at our food in an exhausted sort of manner all while questioning everything we've ever known.  

First, though, let's talk about the good things, first being Derek.  We have a strong relationship, and usually align on most big decisions (which is funny, because we are so different in so many small ways), which makes everything easier.  This may be hard and stressful and anxiety-riddled, but at least we're anxious together.  

Second is our realtor, Sanam.  When you're spending a lot of time with someone you just met, many things could go wrong.  Maybe they're a gum smacker.  Maybe they only talk to the man and just gloss over anything you, the woman, have to say.  Maybe they're one doughnut short of a baker's dozen and that hole in their personality is where their sense of humor would have lived.  Whatever, she was great.  Is great.  So nice, and really insightful; just the kind of person you want in your corner when you're making big life decisions.  

Other good things about the trip?  Connecticut is prettier than I remember it being.  This may seem trivial, but aesthetics are important.  Just ask Hobby Lobby, or any other store that makes its millions off people needing to find their surroundings visually pleasing.  The people are also much friendlier there- this was a pleasant if somewhat uncomfortable realization.  Is it possible that- gasp!- I was the problem?  Or that 21-year-old me was the problem, anyway?  Let me also put forward Derek's more flattering theory:  I moved to CT from southern Kansas, where you can walk into a gas station knowing no one but leave having been christened the maid of honor in the attendant's upcoming wedding.  Okay, so I'm exaggerating, but barely.  My point is, the good people of Kansas are very friendly, so to go from that, the only habitat I knew, to Connecticut, where the people are what I privately call "icily friendly" on bad days but "reservedly friendly" on good ones, well, it's a tough transition.  Iowa, however, is a just a tad friendlier than CT, I believe, but definitely closer to the reserved side of the spectrum than the outgoing.  Maybe it's all the northern European descendants?  As in, they're all tall and leggy and light-complected and they'll say hi and how you doing but they don't actually want your life story about how you weren't allowed to eat the food at certain family reunions and also had to be shielded at all times from Uncle Jimmy at those same reunions and haha wasn't that so weird?

Hypothetically speaking.

So there were good things about last week's trip!  But I've also had to relate how when we were moving to Iowa, we went house hunting and had a "That's it!  That's the one!" moment when we found our house.  We had no such moment in CT, which sucks.  It does.  I also don't believe I'm owed a moment like that, however; sometimes you take what's good enough and make it into something that fits your family.  And we can do that.  This is work we know how to do.

All that to say:  we put in an offer on a house.  There's been some volleying of counter-offers back and forth, which sounds fun but is the worst game ever.  Now we're in a period of waiting again, which is something we've been getting oodles of practice doing over the previous few months.  I think next comes... an inspection?  By an inspector?  One who inspects things?

Bookish Gratitudinals

1.  The sound of David Tennant reading the How to Train Your Dragon audio books, currently lulling our boys to sleep.  There are some pretty terrible audio books out there.  These are not among that number.

2. New favorites:

3.  And old:

4.  The best book I've read in quite some time, that I may have recommended here before, but is absolutely worth the possible repeat rec:

5.  Just about anything by Neil Gaiman, forever and ever, amen.  And if you're noting that this list is a little fantasy heavy, well, you'll have to excuse my increased need for a little escapism at this point in my life.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Little House with Hopefully No Water in Its Basement

It's house hunting time!  Derek and I are about to embark on a house hunting trip in Connecticut, because searching for a home online is extremely helpful and I am thankful for that capability, but what that online picture doesn't show is that that charming house is placed cheek by jowl with the friendly neighborhood crack den until you go see it in person.  Photoshop and photo cropping are powerful tools. 
Do not read this book while house hunting unless you enjoy crying. 

Our Iowa people keep asking what town we're going to live in, because they are thinking in midwestern terms.  The best way I can think to explain CT is to compare it to the Des Moines Metro area:  much (although not all) of Connecticut is covered by towns that bleed together, so you never really know when you've left one town and have entered another, except perhaps that the name of the road has changed (so confusing).  We will live in a specific town, of course, once we find a house, but the name of whichever town we choose is really only important because there is no open enrollment in CT, a privilege that we enjoy here in Iowa. 

Open enrollment, at least here, means that even if you live in Ballard school district, you can still choose to send your kids to school in Ames.  There are exceptions to this, of course; certain districts choose to close themselves off because they're already at capacity, or for other reasons.  What reasons?  I don't know.  I just assume there are others. 

Where we're headed, however, where you live is where you go to school.  The population density is so high that even though Derek is working in Bristol, we have, I don't know, dozens, I guess, of towns and school districts to choose from, and when we're looking online we might see lots of houses in a certain town that look so charming!  And reasonably priced!  Oh, but it turns out the school district is extremely poorly rated and hey, ho, the Connecticut legislature has actually stepped in because so many millions of dollars were stolen from the district and it's now failing.  Guess we don't want to live there. 

Because of this, however, the towns with the good school districts have fewer homes for sale within our price range because the market is more competitive there.  Or the property taxes are insane.  (Iowa friends:  think double what we pay in our town.  Yes.  That insane.) 

Even so far, it's been a lot of ups and downs, just searching online.  Look at this house, it looks so nice!  Oh, wait, the schools are crap.  Here's a house, and the commute looks reasonable!  No, no, it's in a flood plain.  Here!  Here is THE HOUSE.  Look at these pictures!  Now this is a Crisler house!  Nope- it's on a street so busy we'd have trouble pulling out of the driveway and we'd likely never be able to resell the place.

What I keep telling myself is that God already has a house in mind for us.  He already knows where we're going to live, and we just have to trust His timing. 

Doesn't that sound nice?  Don't I sound like a good little Christian?  The truth is that although I am great at saying this (on repeat in my head), it's way harder for me to actually walk through.  So if you see me and I seem to be FREAKING OUT, well, you're missing the ten minutes a day that I'm actually resting in His promises.  Better luck tomorrow.


1.  Free Wifi at the airport, even if it's only for an hour.  A deadline!  Deadlines can be helpful, right?

2.  My mom, who didn't murder my sisters and I when we were growing up, and is considerate enough to not murder us each time she sees us.  She also does her best to muffle her laughter when I call and say things like, "Exactly how am I supposed to get our daughter through middle school?  Without gnawing off my own arms in frustration and rage, I mean?"

3.  Caramel lattes.  Lattes of almost any kind, in fact.

4.  People who take care to shower before they get on planes.

5.  My mother-in-law, who was kind enough to take me to the airport today so that I don't have to park our vehicle in short-term parking, keep track of an extra piece of paper, etc.  Such luxury!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Existential Crises Caused by Moving

With this new job of Derek's comes a relocation package, which is doled out in the form of a points system.  There are all kinds of services available to meet your moving needs within this package, each worth a specific number of points.  Some are a better deal than others; staying in corporate housing, for instance, is worth a whole lotta points, so we've done everything we can to avoid that one.  The point value of storing your stuff in a storage facility seems slightly more reasonable, but we're still hoping not to have to rely on that- it all depends on how soon we find a house out there.

By far the biggest chunk of our points are being eaten up by moving our stuff; we're fortunate in that a company will come pack up all our goods, put them in a truck, and haul them cross-country.   It's to be expected, then, that most of our points will go toward this, but it's still been a learning experience in and of itself, because the points are allocated by weight.  Do you know what the total weight of all your crap is?  Material crap, I mean, not emotional.  That's an entirely different metric.

As it turns out, there's a system for finding out how much your stuff weighs.  Not just a system, in fact, but a person whose job it is to come to your house, follow you around as you say, "This is going, but not that, and not that, but this and this are."  She says, "Great, okay, sounds good,"-and is by the way a very friendly person- and then she wanders through your house with her phone, scrolling and poking at things on the screen, which could normally mean anything, but this is a purposeful scrolling and poking, and you soon find out that she's scrolling to "beds, queen-size," and "couches, 6-foot" and checking off all of your things in under 10 minutes.

This all seems a little odd but makes a strange sort of sense, but really all you want is for your crap not to amount to much more than 3,000 pounds, because 3,000 pounds or less and you're not paying too much in points, but after that, you're charged every 500 pounds.

So that's what we did.  We waited for her results, and kept in mind that they always over-estimate the poundage of your stuff, which is understandable- and hey, we'll eventually be reimbursed whatever points we don't use.  And we don't have that much stuff anyway!  I'm a major house purger, and we have a bunch of built-ins (including dressers) in this old house of ours, so we really don't even have that much furniture.

Well.  As it turns out we do have a lot of stuff, to the tune of 10,000 pounds, at least by the Professional Crap Estimator's calculations.

So.  That came as a bit of a shock.

Do I feel a little sick knowing we have around 10,000 pounds worth of stuff?  Yes.  I keep thinking about all the extra things pioneers tried to bring with them on the Oregon Trail that they had to abandon somewhere along the way.  Do we really need all this stuff?  Of course not!  But conversely do I want our family to sit on bamboo mats on the floor and eat our supper with our fingers?

Actually that sounds kind of fun, but only for, like, two meals, tops, and then I know I'd be too grossed out by everyone's crusty food fingers.  Related:  WHY do I have to clean the handle of the refrigerator every other day?  I feel like I am constantly telling our offspring to wash their hands, and yet somehow the door to the fridge is perpetually nasty.

At this point I'm trying to determine just what it is of ours that weighs so freaking much.  We're not bringing a mower, or a snow blower.  We do have one big saw, and our dining table is pretty good-sized.  But our couch isn't particularly big or heavy, and we have a single recliner.  We do have five beds, and as much as I read about how good it is for you to sleep on low-to-the-floor bedding, trying to sell my family on that would be a waste of precious effort that I could be spending convincing them that a 0% grass/100% flower and vegetable yard is the way to go.

I'm not completely obtuse, of course.  One look around our house and you know what weighs so much:  the books.  So many books.  I wish I could say, "Well, each member of the family will simply have to pare down on their book inventory by 20%," but first of all I am not a monster and second of all just looking at the shelves in our living room, Derek's books occupy the space of one shelf, while mine spread across seven others.

Then there are the shelves throughout the rest of the house:  all my books.  Well, mine and the kids'.  To conclude:  we have many books.  Books are heavy.  I searched for a gif, hoping to find something soothing and book-centric and instead found a bunch of Marie Kondo gifs.  I'm feeling both targeted and offended.  The end.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dry Needling

A friend of mine recently went through a... training, I guess?  A workshop?  A certification?  Something magical and clandestine that only physical therapists (and I think a couple chiropractors) can take part in where they lock themselves into a room and poke each other with needles until all their various aches and pains have abated and they have unlocked the secrets to a reliably good night's sleep.

That's how I imagine it went, anyway, based on the details she shared and my natural gift for confabulation. 

Anyhow, I asked this friend if she'd bring her magic needles with her when she and another friend came over last weekend.  She kindly agreed and even made us feel necessary by saying she needed plenty of dry needling practice. Then she stabbed us until we begged for mercy!

Okay, so not really.  She was very precise and professional about the whole thing- she even brought her own wee sharps container- calmly talking us through every step of the process and answering my questions with the utmost patience.  While I laid on my front, peppered her with questions, and tried to take a picture without moving any of the muscles in my posterior chain- the section she was needling- I soon realized that I wasn't feeling much of anything. 

Excuse the dead fish look on my face- I really really wanted to see what she was doing back there.

As a matter of fact, the only real sensation I felt was when she needled a certain spot in my right hamstring and elicited a twitch response.  I kept asking if the needles were in, if she'd already put one in, etc.  I couldn't feel much of anything, excepting that one spot, throughout the whole thing.  Somehow this feels like it must be connected to the fact that I can only be massaged by those with impressive upper body strength; my response to the question, "How's the pressure?" is almost invariably "MOOOOOOORE!"

The freaky part to the whole "I am an unfeeling robot" revelation was when I watched Anne dry needle our other friend, Mindy.  Not only was Mindy's response different than mine- nothing crazy, she just clearly could feel bunches of needles penetrating her flesh- but I could see how long the needles were going into her calves.  They had to be at least two inches long (currently holding my index finger and thumb up to try and gauge how long those needles looked), and most of that length went into her calf muscles.  I had to ask because it seemed so implausible, but sure enough, it was those big mamas that I wasn't feeling.  Google searches asking what the opposite of a highly sensitive person might be have so far only told me that I am a pitiless turd. 

I'm not even going to pretend to be able to explain what the proposed benefits to dry needling are.  I'll just tell you what I told Anne:  my range of motion was better for around 48 hours post-needling, especially in my right hip, where I usually suffer from limited range of motion and almost daily pain. 
Example:  normally I have no problem executing this stretch on my left leg, while my right takes a few minutes to relax into place.  It's one of my very favorite hip opening-type stretches, a kind of standing pigeon for you yoga types. 
That knee is usually floating several inches above the counter, at least at first.  After the dry needling, however, it slid right down onto the counter, parallel with my foot.  Amazing.  Also I don't know what that means.  Ask a PT.  Of additional note:  this picture was taken in the back room at work.  I take regular stretch breaks, and you should, too.

It was all a welcome break from the we're-moving-life-as-we-know-it-is-over chaos. 


1.  Not having to pay to call people long-distance anymore.  Or use those ridiculous pre-pay phone cards for the same. 

2.  Roasted pine nut hummus.

3.  The fact that corsets or stays or girdles are no longer required as part of women's daily attire.

4.  Adelaide, and not just because is even now telling me to type this.  She is a marvel.

5.  My youngest sister, Stephanie, who I can always use as a sounding board to determine what the kindest course of action is.  I don't know if it's a function of being the youngest child, or an inborn trait, or what, but she reliably points me in the nicer direction.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Things Remembered

It's been interesting to discuss selling our house with the public at large.  Reactions run the gamut, from "Oh, that's exciting!" to people who have actually sold a home within the past few years; those poor souls have a haunted look that steals over their faces- unless you're one of sick few who actually enjoy this kind of thing.  The one friend of mine who doesn't bear permanent damage from selling her house should be a realtor, though, I swear; she has the right skill set, from relentless encouragement in the face of my dour attitude of late to weirdly specific knowledge of things like earnest money and appraisals.  If you're looking to move into central Iowa, let me know and I'll pressure Marsha some more into making a career change.

We're now at the point where we're actively looking at houses in CT.  We began doing this online months ago, but found ourselves getting emotionally attached to homes that quickly sold, as the housing market out there seems to move as quickly as our market here.  

The problem I'm grappling with now, or at least a part of it?  

I am not a good house hunter.  

Not in the same way as the people on that show, which I have seen all of three, maybe four times; I like people in general, but a handful of episodes was enough to make me believe that perhaps I should be praying for a humanity-cleansing asteroid rather than world peace.  No, those people all seem to live in a fantasy world where you can ask for five bedrooms and a fireplace and a pool and a three car garage and a boat dock and at least ten acres for your specialty-bred tortoise.  

I'm a gigantic pain to house hunt with because I seem to have house amnesia.  Derek can recall minute details about nearly all the houses we toured ten years ago, when moving to Iowa, and will sometimes point out a house in Ames, saying, "Remember when we went through that house?" and I'm swiveling my head in all directions in bewilderment because as far as my brain is concerned, this is all new territory.

And now it's all happening again.  We've been viewing a lot of houses online, and Derek will frequently ask about the house in Wethersfield or the house in Burlington, you know, the one with three bedrooms and a garage?  While I will have indeed viewed these houses, looked at all their pictures, and read their descriptions in full, after all of two houses they start to run together in my head, and I feel like I'm operating with the mentality of a preschooler:  "What about that one house?  You know, the one I liked?  Well, I don't know where it was, I just know I liked it!"

Thankfully Derek is used to translating my gibberish into English, as evidenced by my texts to him from the mechanic's place today, where he didn't bat an eye when I couldn't remember what the guy had said to me thirty seconds prior:

Next week's house hunting trip should be interesting, to say the least.

Tuesday's Gratitudinals:  

1.  Lemons and lemon-flavored anything.  Lemon bars, lemon basil pasta, my favorite cookie from my young childhood, Lemon Coolers, that were discontinued long ago.  Not to worry, I have a new favorite:  Ginger Lemon Cremes.

2.  Hydrogen bonds.

3.  The Wailin' Jennys.

4.  Weird books at the library book sale.

5.  My middle sister Kelli, who is celebrating her birthday today!  When she was born I wanted to name her Amy.  My grandma instead gave me a Cabbage Patch Kid preemie doll and I was instructed to name her Amy.  Although I wouldn't have had the language for it at the time, at the age of three I remember feeling disgruntled and a little patronized that I was supposed to believe naming a doll was the same as naming a sister, but did as I was told.  I still have both Amy and Kelli.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Selling the House

It would appear I have left out some teeny, tiny details surrounding this move.  Things like why we're moving, when, etc.

So!  Once upon a time, a young lad met a young lass.  Said young lad graduated from their shared institute of higher learning (in Kansas) and found work at a magical place called ESPN (in Connecticut).  Said lass finished her education at the previously mentioned institute, married the lad, and went to join him in Connecticut.  A few years and one baby later they left Connecticut, lived in Kansas for a year (enter baby #2) then decided they wanted those brutal winters back and went to live in Iowa, where the lad grew up.  They lived in Iowa for ten years (baby #3 added somewhere in there) before the lad and ESPN decided they must be reunited, so the now-five of them will all be embarking on a grand adventure this summer.

I left a bunch of stuff out of that, including much of anything about me in that space of time, which I'm finding annoying as I read it over again, but not annoying enough to go back and change it.  Onward!

Yes, we will be venturing out to Connecticut because Derek was once again offered a job at the big ol' sports tv place, as I call it in my head.  But before we do that, we needed to sell our house.

The last time we sold property was when we previously moved from CT, in 2008, when we hired a realtor, she took a bunch of poorly lit pictures of our 600- square foot condo and got around saying the place was miniscule by using words like "cozy" and "homey" in the online description.  Still, it sold within a few weeks and the whole procedure was relatively painless.

Let me tell you, things have changed.

First, allow me to say that we like our realtor.  He has done a wonderful job, and we have felt ourselves to be in more than capable hands.  Even without being first-time home sellers, however, we've had a lot to learn.  There was an interior decorator that toured the house with Derek, the latter of whom was instructed to take copious notes.  She had instructed me via email not to pack any decorative items, but instead to set them aside for her to use at will.  When I got home from work that day I found that she had used most of the things I'd pulled out, and in ways I never would have expected, because I do not have the decorator gene.  I can give you book recommendations until you beg for mercy and claim illiteracy, but decorating?  The most help I can be is to say things like, "Um, I really like old stuff.  Especially if it's just a little bit weird."  Which is no help at all and borderline off-topic.

She also pointed out all the places we needed to de-clutter, which was helpful to me because Derek and I had already been purging and deep cleaning for a couple weeks at that point and I felt I was becoming a bit blind to what the house actually looked like.  The rest of her instructions she seemed to sum up in two words: "Think hotel," repeated many times on the tour with Derek.  My version of this order was "Make it look like no human actually lives here," which is basically the same thing, I guess, unless you're Eloise.  No laundry anywhere, no laundry baskets, no trash cans, only the two approved towels hanging in the bathroom, no shampoo, soap, or person-cleaning product of any kind in the shower, etc.

The house looked amazing after I followed her instructions to the letter, although I only finished executing her marching orders maybe four minutes before the professional photographer arrived- another new part of the process to me.  He, too, did an amazing job.  I should add that both these professionals' services were part of the realtor's commission, so we weren't paying extra for this stuff.

Next is one of the crazier parts, at least to me.  Most of the communications surrounding the showings of our house were done via app.  We downloaded the ShowingTime app, and shortly thereafter we started getting requests for showings- local realtors wanting to book times to take their clients through the house.  I had determined early on that I would say yes to any showing, orienting our family schedule around these in order to get as many potential buyers through this place as possible.  I still say this was a good strategy, but it made for a couple of hairy days.

To be more specific:  Friday I was at a library conference all day.  Because there was so much interest in our home (yay!), throughout the day we got notifications on our phones that a showing was requested for x:xx time.  We then had the option of confirming that appointment, denying it, or requesting an alternate time, all via the app.  I confirmed every one, which was hurray, exciting! while I was at the conference, but once I'd picked up four kids from school (we had a spare that day), it got a little interesting, sounding something like, "Okay, kids, we'll be at this park for an hour, then we can go home at 5:00, okay?  Oh, wait, now it's 5:30.  Hang on, there are two more- 6:30, kids, we just gotta get to 6:30 and then we can go home!"

Thankfully it was beautiful out that day, so we turned the afternoon into a tour of our local parks.  And then we did the same thing most of the day Saturday as showings kept ding-dinging my phone; those then ran right into the open house.  Again, all good things!  But I did get tired of driving by the house to see if anyone was there, then dashing in to vacuum all the floors between showings because evidently it is no longer considered rude to track mud through a stranger's house.

All of those things felt as if they had been worth it when we had multiple offers by Saturday afternoon.  Our house is pending!  Another hurdle cleared!  Hurray and huzzah!

I will confess I'm still kind of waiting for the bottom to fall out on this offer, for something to go wrong.  I don't know if this means I'm a determined pessimist, I have a stress hangover from getting the house ready to sell, or what.

A strange/fun detail about all of this:  the buyers are our neighbors.  She stopped Derek outside the day after the sign went up in our yard and told him she wanted to buy our house, that she'd loved it since they moved to the neighborhood a few years ago.  I figured this was just talk, but evidently some people actually do the things they say they're going to do.  Strangely, this gives me hope for our society.  I have a new level of self-consciousness when I'm in our front yard now, though, making sure they can see I'm plucking out every errant weed and not slacking on maintaining the house in our final weeks here.  It was also interesting to open up the back of the van and pull out all the laundry and junk I'd stashed back there because it wasn't allowed in the house for the showings and open house.  If they were watching out their windows, they could absolutely have seen just how much I had to haul out there to fool the world into thinking no one currently lives here.
Not the gif I was looking for, I admit, but absolutely the gif I needed.

Sunday's Gratitudinals

1. Biographies and Memoirs.  Recent favorites include Becoming by Michelle Obama (the former first lady describes politics as "nasty" at one point.  How much more relatable can you get?)  Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (la di da, I think I'll do one of those DNA tests you mail off, it will be fun!  Wait, is this right?  Is this test saying one of my beloved parents isn't biologically related to me?  And this means I'm not a full Jew when that's a huge part of my identity?  WHAT?), and of course, the current favorite the world over, Educated by Tara Westover, which absolutely lives up to the hype.

2. Bosu Balls.  Last week I was excited that our gym finally got one, and this week I'm excited because I realized I was using it upside down, so now I'm fixing that, and let me tell you, it is way easier to stand on those things right-side up.  Look, figuring out little things like which way is up is hard sometimes, okay?  And doesn't this just mean I'll be able to say I know Bosu balls backwards and forwards?

3.  Indoor plumbing.  Forever and always.

4.  Friends and needles, especially together, as it turns out.  No, I'm not a recreational drug user.  Someone remind me to post about dry needling sometime this week.

5.  Having a daughter who is borderline obsessed with the periodic table of elements.  If you have a similar loved one, this book (shown below) is a fantastic gift, and will quickly become a comfort book for them.